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How to conduct customer research: the best tools and methods
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How to conduct customer research: the best tools and methods

A headshot of Simon Kirrane
Simon Kirrane
17th May, 2024
6 min read
A magnifying glass highlighting two green ticks on a survey attached to a clipboard
A headshot of Simon Kirrane
Simon Kirrane
17th May, 2024
6 min read
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What is customer research?
Why is customer research important?
Different types of customer research
Conducting customer research: tips

Let’s talk about what customer research actually is, why it’s valuable to a company, and the best research methods.

Want to ace your customer research? In today's hyper-competitive world, reaching your target audience should be a very important goal. Customer research is a tool that allows you to see how to reach more people, how to shape your product or service to suit the market, and how to grow your business. Whether you want to gauge customer satisfaction or conduct market research, it’s easy with the right tools! 

What is customer research?

Customer research is the systematic process of gathering and analysing information about customers to understand their needs, preferences, and behaviours. It enables businesses to make informed decisions and tailor products, services, and marketing strategies to better meet expectations.

This can be done online or offline through surveys, forms, interviews, or focus groups.

Why is customer research important?

Matching your message to your target audience is the key to all business success, so you need to ensure that your message, product, and pricing resonate with your target audience. If you have a new demographic to reach or a new feature or product, targeted customer research is the very best way to gain valuable insights into how it’s likely to be received so you can align your product, service, and marketing, saving time and money.

Different types of customer research

It’s important to pick the customer research methods that suit your goals and your business, as well as your budget!


Surveys allow you to see how happy customers are or can be used to help build a buyer profile for a new proposed product or service.

Surveys have a low barrier to entry, and you can send one this afternoon! That doesn't mean you should take it lightly. A survey should have high standards to ensure you don’t spoil your chance of questioning a potential customer.

Benefits of surveys:
  • Wide reach with a low-cost
  • Quantifiable, trackable data
  • Quick to start

Drawbacks of surveys:
  • Lacking nuance and detail of more personal approaches
  • Fees for incentives to overcome low response rates
  • May not be taken as seriously by customers

Potential cost:
  • Free/cost of mailing your database, plus an incentive

Many tools make it easy to get started. You can learn to create forms and surveys in Confluence with just a few clicks.
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Capture customer feedback in Confluence with a 30-day free trial. Click to try for free

Focus groups

Before the 1940s, market research was qualitative, based on polls or buying data. However, after WW2, sociologists Robert Merton and Paul Lazarsfeld wanted to see how exposure to propaganda had affected the public. They conducted in-person interviews in engaging discussions, which caught the attention of advertisers and were shortly coined ‘focus groups’.

Focus groups became more focused on preferences, thoughts, and exploratory ideas instead of percentages and ratios. They were based on motivations and feelings and revealed many interesting insights, including that wives had more influence than husbands on which car the household bought, something Chrysler decided was worth focusing on!

Mattel also asked girls what they wanted in a doll, meaning the creation of Barbie!

Interviews offer a similar scenario but in a 1-2-1 setting, either on the phone, video conference, or in person.

Benefits of focus groups:
  • Instant feedback
  • Deep understanding
  • Varied viewpoints

Drawbacks of focus groups:
  • Ability to be led by the researcher (bias)
  • Cost and time needed
  • Disparity between reality and ideals

Potential cost:
  • High, with room hire, refreshments, researchers, and recruiters. Expect to pay more than £1,000

Customer feedback forms

Many businesses already dedicate resources and budgets to sophisticated feedback systems, inviting customers to provide feedback online, in person, or in-store.

Decades ago, these were limited to paper responses, but nowadays, you’re likely to get a pop-up window or a follow-up email or text.

Customer feedback forms can help provide information on your business and can be tied back to purchases, potentially revealing insights about the best target audience for new business endeavours.

Benefits of feedback forms:
  • Direct insights
  • Appreciated by customers
  • Quick and easy to run

Drawbacks of feedback forms:
  • Bias: Can be influenced heavily by current use/appreciation of product or service
  • Limited structure: May not capture useful insights or ideas
  • Analysis complexity: Time-consuming to analyse and unpick responses

Potential cost:
  • Low-medium, although expenses can scale based on the systems needed to facilitate feedback, as well as costs to encourage responses such as incentives, prizes, pop-up volumes, or additional display channels

Tips for conducting customer research

1. Find the perfect audience
Look in your CRM to find your prospects and clients, find the right target group, reach your sales team, and ask on social media or through your website.

2. Set a clear goal for what you'd like to find out
Be precise about the target audience and determine the right respondents and what you need to know.

3. Make time to analyse the survey and follow up
Can you action the outcomes?

4. Ask the right questions
Questions will make or break what you get out of the customer research.
  • Ensure customers feel able to respond in any way, good or bad.
  • Have a standardised, approved list of questions to ask, but let them reflect and elaborate.
  • Ask one thing at a time, and clarify later on.
  • Ask open-ended questions, and let them reflect and elaborate.
  • Avoid leading questions such as: ‘What do you think about a helpful chat box here?’
  • Start with high-level questions first. Discover their role, challenges, and interests, and get them more comfortable answering before you ask questions related to you and your product.

Customer research: which method is right for you?

Surveys offer broad quantitative insights efficiently, while focus groups provide nuanced qualitative feedback. Interviews capture in-depth individual perspectives, and customer feedback forms allow for direct, spontaneous responses. The best method depends on the research objective. What would be great for your business, a deep dive or, at a glance, a temperature check?

Our tip? Start with a survey, and go from there!

With Forms for Confluence, you can create forms and surveys with the intuitive form builder in just a few clicks. Get started today!
Written by
A headshot of Simon Kirrane
Simon Kirrane
Senior Content Marketing Manager
With a 20-year career in content marketing, Simon has represented a range of international brands. His current specialism is the future of work and work management. Simon is skilled at launching content pipelines, establishing powerful brands, and crafting innovative content strategies.

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